TOLENTINO vs COMELEC

6 11 2011

Read case digest here.

Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

[G.R. No.  148334.  January 21, 2004]

ARTURO M. TOLENTINO and ARTURO C. MOJICA, petitionersvs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, SENATOR RALPH G. RECTO and SENATOR GREGORIO B. HONASAN, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a petition for prohibition to set aside Resolution No. NBC 01-005 dated 5 June 2001 (“Resolution No. 01-005”) and Resolution No. NBC 01-006 dated 20 July 2001 (“Resolution No. 01-006”) of respondent Commission on Elections (“COMELEC”). Resolution No. 01-005 proclaimed the 13 candidates elected as Senators in the 14 May 2001 elections while Resolution No. 01-006 declared “official and final” the ranking of the 13 Senators proclaimed in Resolution No. 01-005.

The Facts

Shortly after her succession to the Presidency in January 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated then Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. (“Senator Guingona”) as Vice-President.  Congress confirmed the nomination of Senator Guingona who took his oath as Vice-President on 9 February 2001.

Following Senator Guingona’s confirmation, the Senate on 8 February 2001 passed Resolution No. 84 (“Resolution No. 84”) certifying to the existence of a vacancy in the Senate. Resolution No. 84 called on COMELEC to fill the vacancy through a special election to be held simultaneously with the regular elections on 14 May 2001. Twelve Senators, with a 6-year term each, were due to be elected in that election.[1] Resolution No. 84 further provided that the “Senatorial candidate garnering the 13th highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.,” which ends on 30 June 2004.[2]

On 5 June 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the election results from all the provinces but one (Lanao del Norte), COMELEC issued Resolution No. 01-005 provisionally proclaiming 13 candidates as the elected Senators. Resolution No. 01-005 also provided that “the first twelve (12) Senators shall serve for a term of six (6) years and the thirteenth (13th) Senator  shall serve the unexpired term of three (3) years of Senator Teofisto  T. Guingona, Jr. who was appointed Vice-President.”[3] Respondents Ralph Recto (“Recto”) and Gregorio Honasan (“Honasan”) ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in Resolution No. 01-005.

On 20 June 2001, petitioners Arturo Tolentino and Arturo Mojica (“petitioners”), as voters and taxpayers, filed the instant petition for prohibition, impleading only COMELEC as respondent. Petitioners sought to enjoin COMELEC from proclaiming with finality the candidate for Senator receiving the 13th highest number of votes as the winner in the special election for a single three-year term seat. Accordingly, petitioners prayed for the nullification of Resolution No. 01-005 in so far as it makes a proclamation to such effect.

Petitioners contend that COMELEC issued Resolution No. 01-005 without jurisdiction because: (1) it failed to notify the electorate of the position to be filled in the special election as required under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6645 (“R.A. No. 6645”);[4] (2) it failed to require senatorial candidates to indicate in their certificates of candidacy whether they seek election under the special or regular elections as allegedly required under Section 73 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881;[5] and, consequently, (3) it failed to specify in  the  Voters Information  Sheet  the  candidates seeking election under the special or regular senatorial elections as purportedly required under Section 4, paragraph 4 of Republic Act No. 6646 (“R.A. No. 6646”).[6] Petitioners add that because of these omissions, COMELEC canvassed all the votes cast for the senatorial candidates in the 14 May 2001 elections without distinction such that “there were no two separate Senate elections held simultaneously but just a single election for thirteen seats, irrespective of term.”[7]

Stated otherwise, petitioners claim that if held simultaneously, a special and a regular election must be distinguished in the documentation as well as in the canvassing of their results.  To support their claim, petitioners cite the special elections simultaneously held with the regular elections of 13 November 1951 and 8 November 1955 to fill the seats vacated by Senators Fernando Lopez and Carlos P. Garcia, respectively, who became Vice-Presidents during their tenures in the Senate.[8] Petitioners point out that in those elections, COMELEC separately canvassed the votes cast for the senatorial candidates running under the regular elections from the votes cast for the candidates running under the special elections.  COMELEC also separately proclaimed the winners in each of those elections.[9]

Petitioners sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order during the pendency of their petition.

Without issuing any restraining order, we required COMELEC to Comment on the petition.

On 20 July 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the results from all the provinces, it issued Resolution No. 01-006 declaring “official and final” the ranking of the 13 Senators proclaimed in Resolution No. 01-005. The 13 Senators took their oaths of office on 23 July 2001.

In view of the issuance of Resolution No. 01-006, the Court required petitioners to file an amended petition impleading Recto and Honasan as additional respondents. Petitioners accordingly filed an amended petition in which they reiterated the contentions raised in their original petition and, in addition, sought the nullification of Resolution No. 01-006.

In their Comments, COMELEC, Honasan, and Recto all claim that a special election to fill the seat vacated by Senator Guingona was validly held on 14 May 2001.  COMELEC and Honasan further raise preliminary issues on the mootness of the petition and on petitioners’ standing to litigate. Honasan also claims that the petition, which seeks the nullity of his proclamation as Senator, is actually a quo warranto petition and the Court should dismiss the same for lack of jurisdiction. For his part, Recto, as the 12th ranking Senator, contends he is not a proper party to this case because the petition only involves the validity of the proclamation of the 13th placer in the 14 May 2001 senatorial elections.

The Issues

The following are the issues presented for resolution:

(1) Procedurally –

(a) whether the petition is in fact a petition for quo warranto over which the Senate Electoral Tribunal is the sole judge;

(b) whether the petition is moot; and

(c) whether petitioners have standing to litigate.

(2) On the merits, whether a special election to fill a vacant three-year term Senate seat was validly held on 14 May 2001.

The Ruling of the Court

The petition has no merit.

On the Preliminary Matters

The Nature of the Petition and the Court’s Jurisdiction

quo warranto proceeding is, among others, one to determine the right of a public officer in the exercise of his office and to oust him from its enjoyment if his claim is not well-founded.[10] Under Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution, the Senate Electoral Tribunal is the sole judge of all contests relating to the qualifications of the members of the Senate.

A perusal of the allegations contained in the instant petition shows, however, that what petitioners are questioning is the validity of the special election on 14 May 2001 in which Honasan was elected.  Petitioners’ various prayers are, namely: (1) a “declaration” that no special election was held simultaneously with the general elections on 14 May 2001; (2) to enjoin COMELEC from declaring anyone as having won in the special election; and (3) to annul Resolution Nos. 01-005 and 01-006 in so far as these Resolutions proclaim Honasan as the winner in the special election.  Petitioners anchor their prayers on COMELEC’s alleged failure to comply with certain requirements pertaining to the conduct of that special election.  Clearly then, the petition does not seek to determine Honasan’s right in the exercise of his office as Senator. Petitioners’ prayer for the annulment of Honasan’s proclamation and, ultimately, election is merely incidental to petitioners’ cause of action. Consequently, the Court can properly exercise jurisdiction over the instant petition.

On the Mootness of the Petition

COMELEC contends that its proclamation on 5 June 2001 of the 13  Senators and its subsequent confirmation on 20 July 2001 of the ranking of the 13 Senators render the instant petition to set aside Resolutions Nos. 01-005 and 01-006 moot and academic.

Admittedly, the office of the writ of prohibition is to command a tribunal or board to desist from committing an act threatened to be done without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.[11] Consequently, the writ will not lie to enjoin acts already done.[12] However, as an exception to the rule on mootness, courts will decide a question otherwise moot if it is capable of repetition yet evading review.[13] Thus, in Alunan III v. Mirasol,[14] we took cognizance of a petition to set aside an order canceling the general elections for the Sangguniang Kabataan (“SK”) on 4 December 1992 despite that at the time the petition was filed, the SK election had already taken place. We noted inAlunan that since the question of the validity of the order sought to be annulled “is likely to arise in every SK elections and yet the question may not be decided before the date of such elections,” the mootness of the petition is no bar to its resolution. This observation squarely applies to the instant case. The question of the validity of a special election to fill a vacancy in the Senate in relation to COMELEC’s failure to comply with requirements on the conduct of such special election is likely to arise in every such election.  Such question, however, may not be decided before the date of the election.

On Petitioners’ Standing

Honasan questions petitioners’ standing to bring the instant petition as taxpayers and voters because petitioners do not claim that COMELEC illegally disbursed public funds. Neither do petitioners claim that they sustained personal injury because of the issuance of Resolution Nos. 01-005 and 01-006.

“Legal standing” or locus standi refers to a personal and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury because of the challenged governmental act.[15] The requirement of standing, which necessarily “sharpens the presentation of issues,”[16] relates to the constitutional mandate that this Court settle only actual cases or controversies.[17] Thus, generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action.[18]

Applied strictly, the doctrine of standing to litigate will indeed bar the instant petition. In questioning, in their capacity as voters, the validity of the special election on 14 May 2001, petitioners assert a harm classified as a “generalized grievance.” This generalized grievance is shared in substantially equal measure by a large class of voters, if not all the voters, who voted in that election.[19] Neither have petitioners alleged, in their capacity as taxpayers, that the Court should give due course to the petition because in the special election held on 14 May 2001 “tax money [was] ‘x x x extracted and spent in violation of specific constitutional protections against abuses of legislative power’ or that there [was] misapplication of such funds by COMELEC or that public money [was] deflected to any improper purpose.”[20]

On the other hand, we have relaxed the requirement on standing and exercised our discretion to give due course to voters’ suits involving the right of suffrage.[21] Also, in the recent case of Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora,[22] we gave the same liberal treatment to a petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (“IBP”).  The IBP questioned the validity of a Presidential directive deploying elements of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Marines in Metro Manila to conduct patrols even though the IBP presented “too general an interest.” We held:

[T]he IBP primarily anchors its standing on its alleged responsibility to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. Apart from this declaration, however, the IBP asserts no other basis in support of its locus standi. The mere invocation by the IBP of its duty to preserve the rule of law and nothing more, while undoubtedly true, is not sufficient to clothe it with standing in this case.  This is too general an interest which is shared by other groups and the whole citizenry x x x.

Having stated the foregoing, this Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interest is involved.  In not a few cases, the court has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people.  Thus, when the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure.  In this case, a reading of the petition shows that the IBP has advanced constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents.  Moreover, because peace and order are under constant threat and lawless violence occurs in increasing tempo, undoubtedly aggravated by the Mindanao insurgency problem, the legal controversy raised in the petition almost certainly will not go away.  It will stare us in the face again.  It, therefore, behooves the Court to relax the rules on standing and to resolve the issue now, rather than later.[23] (Emphasis supplied)

We accord the same treatment to petitioners in the instant case in their capacity as voters since they raise important issues involving their right of suffrage, considering that the issue raised in this petition is likely to arise again.

Whether a Special Election for a Single, Three-Year Term

Senatorial Seat was Validly Held on 14 May 2001

Under Section 9, Article VI of the Constitution, a special election may be called to fill any vacancy in the Senate and the House of Representatives “in the manner prescribed by law,” thus:

In case of vacancy in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, a special election may be called to fill such vacancy in the manner prescribed by law, but the Senator or Member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term. (Emphasis supplied)

To implement this provision of the Constitution, Congress passed R.A. No. 6645, which provides in pertinent parts:

SECTION 1. In case a vacancy arises in the Senate at least eighteen (18) months or in the House of Representatives at least one (1) year before the next regular election for Members of Congress, the Commission on Elections, upon receipt of a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, certifying to the existence of such vacancy and calling for a special election, shall hold a special election to fill such vacancy.  If Congress is in recess, an official communication on the existence of the vacancy and call for a special election by the President of the Senate or by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall be sufficient for such purpose.  The Senator or Member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term.

SECTION 2. The Commission on Elections shall fix the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than forty-five (45) days nor later than ninety (90) days from the date of such resolution or communication, stating among other things the office or offices to be voted forProvidedhowever, That if within the said period a general election is scheduled to be held, the special election shall be held simultaneously with such general election.  (Emphasis supplied)

Section 4 of Republic Act No. 7166 subsequently amended Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as follows:

Postponement, Failure of Election and Special Elections. – x x x In case a permanent vacancy shall occur in the Senate or House of Representatives at least one (1) year before the expiration of the term, the Commission shall call and hold a special election to fill the vacancy not earlier than sixty (60) days nor longer than ninety (90) days after the occurrence of the vacancy.  However, in case of such vacancy in the Senate, the special election shall be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, in case a vacancy arises in Congress at least one year before the expiration of the term, Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended, requires COMELEC: (1) to call a special election by fixing the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than sixty (60) days nor later than ninety (90) after the occurrence of the vacancy but in case of a vacancy in the Senate, the special election shall be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election; and (2) to give notice to the voters of, among other things, the office or offices to be voted for.

Did COMELEC, in conducting the special senatorial election simultaneously with the 14 May 2001 regular elections, comply with the requirements in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645?

A survey of COMELEC’s resolutions relating to the conduct of the 14 May 2001 elections reveals that they contain nothing which would amount to a compliance, either strict or substantial, with the requirements in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended. Thus, nowhere in its resolutions[24] or even in its press releases[25] did COMELEC state that it would hold a special election for a single three-year term Senate seat simultaneously with the regular elections on 14 May 2001. Nor did COMELEC give formal notice that it would proclaim as winner the senatorial candidate receiving the 13th highest number of votes in the special election.

The controversy thus turns on whether COMELEC’s failure, assuming it did fail, to comply with the requirements in Section 2 of R.A.  No. 6645, as amended, invalidated the conduct of the special senatorial election on 14 May 2001 and accordingly rendered Honasan’s proclamation as the winner in that special election void. More precisely, the question is whether the special election is invalid for lack of a “call” for such election and for lack of notice as to the office to be filled and the manner by which the winner in the special election is to be determined. For reasons stated below, the Court answers in the negative.

COMELEC’s Failure to Give Notice

of the Time of the Special Election Did Not

Negate the Calling of such Election

The calling of an election, that is, the giving notice of the time and place of its occurrence, whether made by the legislature directly or by the body with the duty to give such call, is indispensable to the election’s validity.[26] In a general election, where the law fixes the date of the election, the election is valid without any call by the body charged to administer the election.[27]

In a special election to fill a vacancy, the rule is that a statute that expressly provides that an election to fill a vacancy shall be held at the next general elections fixes the date at which the special election is to be held and operates as the call for that election.  Consequently, an election held at the time thus prescribed is not invalidated by the fact that the body charged by law with the duty of calling the election failed to do so.[28] This is because the right and duty to hold the election emanate from the statute and not from any call for the election by some authority[29] and the law thus charges voters with knowledge of the time and place of the election.[30]

Conversely, where the law does not fix the time and place for holding a special election but empowers some authority to fix the time and place after the happening of a condition precedent, the statutory provision on the giving of notice is considered mandatory, and failure to do so will render the election a nullity.[31]

In the instant case, Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645 itself provides that in case of vacancy in the Senate, the special election to fill such vacancy shall be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election.  Accordingly, the special election to fill the vacancy in the Senate arising from Senator Guingona’s appointment as Vice-President in February 2001 could not be held at any other time but must be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular elections on 14 May 2001.  The law charges the voters with knowledge of this statutory notice and COMELEC’s failure to give the additional notice did not negate the calling of such special election, much less invalidate it.

Our conclusion might be different had the present case involved a special election to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives.  In such a case, the holding of the special election is subject to a condition precedent, that is, the vacancy should take place at least one year before the expiration of the term.  The time of the election is left to the discretion of COMELEC subject only to the limitation that it holds the special election within the range of time provided in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended.  This makes mandatory the requirement in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended, for COMELEC to “call x x x a special election x x x not earlier than 60 days nor longer than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy” and give notice of the office to be filled.  The COMELEC’s failure to so call and give notice will nullify any attempt to hold a special election to fill the vacancy.  Indeed, it will be well-nigh impossible for the voters in the congressional district involved to know the time and place of the special election and the office to be filled unless the COMELEC so notifies them.

No Proof that COMELEC’s

Failure to Give Notice of the Office

to be Filled and the Manner of

Determining the Winner in the Special

Election Misled Voters

The test in determining the validity of a special election in relation to the failure to give notice of the special election is whether the want of notice has resulted in misleading a sufficient number of voters as would change the result of the special election. If the lack of official notice misled a substantial number of voters who wrongly believed that there was no special election to fill a vacancy, a choice by a small percentage of voters would be void.[32]

The required notice to the voters in the 14 May 2001 special senatorial election covers two matters.  First, that COMELEC will hold a special election to fill a vacant single three-year term Senate seat simultaneously with the regular elections scheduled on the same date.  Second, that COMELEC will proclaim as winner the senatorial candidate receiving the 13th highest number of votes in the special election.  Petitioners have neither claimed nor proved that COMELEC’s failure to give this required notice misled a sufficient number of voters as would change the result of the special senatorial election or led them to believe that there was no such special election.

Instead, what petitioners did is conclude that since COMELEC failed to give such notice, no special election took place. This bare assertion carries no value.  Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended, charged those who voted in the elections of 14 May 2001 with the knowledge that the vacancy in the Senate arising from Senator Guingona’s appointment as Vice-President in February 2001 was to be filled in the next succeeding regular election of 14 May 2001. Similarly, the absence of formal notice from COMELEC does not preclude the possibility that the voters had actual notice of the special election, the office to be voted in that election, and the manner by which COMELEC would determine the winner.  Such actual notice could come from many sources, such as media reports of the enactment of R.A. No. 6645 and election propaganda during the campaign.[33]

More than 10 million voters cast their votes in favor of Honasan, the party who stands most prejudiced by the instant petition. We simply cannot disenfranchise those who voted for Honasan, in the absence of proof that COMELEC’s omission prejudiced voters in the exercise of their right of suffrage so as to negate the holding of the special election.  Indeed, this Court is loathe to annul elections and will only do so when it is “impossible to distinguish what votes are lawful and what are unlawful, or to arrive at any certain result whatever, or that the great body of the voters have been prevented by violence, intimidation, and threats from exercising their franchise.”[34]

Otherwise, the consistent rule has been to respect the electorate’s will and let the results of the election stand, despite irregularities that may have attended the conduct of the elections.[35] This is but to acknowledge the purpose  and  role  of  elections in a democratic society such as ours, which is:

to give the voters a direct participation in the affairs of their government, either in determining who shall be their public officials or in deciding some question of public interest; and for that purpose all of the legal voters should be permitted, unhampered and unmolested, to cast their ballot.  When that is done and no frauds have been committed, the ballots should be counted and the election should not be declared null.  Innocent voters should not be deprived of their participation in the affairs of their government for mere irregularities on the part of the election officers, for which they are in no way responsible.  A different rule would make the manner and method of performing a public duty of greater importance than the duty itself.[36] (Emphasis in the original)

Separate Documentation and Canvassing

not Required under Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645,

Neither is there basis in petitioners’ claim that the manner by which COMELEC conducted the special senatorial election on 14 May 2001 is a nullity because COMELEC failed to document separately the candidates and to canvass separately the votes cast for the special election. No such requirements exist in our election laws.   What is mandatory under Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645 is that COMELEC “fix the date of the election,” if necessary, and “state, among others, the office or offices to be voted for.” Similarly, petitioners’ reliance on Section 73 of B.P. Blg. 881 on the filing of certificates of candidacy, and on Section 4(4) of R.A. No. 6646 on the printing of election returns and tally sheets, to support their claim is misplaced. These provisions govern elections in general and in no way require separate documentation of candidates or separate canvass of votes in a jointly held regular and special elections.

Significantly, the method adopted by COMELEC in conducting the special election on 14 May 2001 merely implemented the procedure specified by the Senate in Resolution No. 84.  Initially, the original draft of Resolution No. 84 as introduced by Senator Francisco Tatad (“Senator Tatad”) made no mention of the manner by which the seat vacated by former Senator Guingona would be filled.  However, upon the suggestion of Senator Raul Roco (“Senator Roco”), the Senate agreed to amend Resolution No. 84 by providing, as it now appears, that “the senatorial candidate garnering the thirteenth (13th) highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.” Senator Roco introduced the amendment to spare COMELEC and the candidates needless  expenditures and the voters further inconvenience, thus:

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Mr. President, I move that we now consider Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 [later converted to Resolution No. 84].

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved.

Consideration of Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 is now in order.  With the permission of the Body, the Secretary will read only the title and text of the resolution.

T[HE] S[ECRETARY].  Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 entitled

RESOLUTION CERTIFYING TO THE EXISTENCE OF A VACANCY IN THE SENATE AND CALLING ON THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC) TO FILL UP SUCH VACANCY THROUGH ELECTION TO BE HELD SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH THE REGULAR ELECTION ON MAY 14, 2001 AND THE SENATOR THUS ELECTED TO SERVE ONLY FOR THE UNEXPIRED TERM

WHEREAS, the Honorable Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. was elected Senator of the Philippines in 1998 for a term which will expire on June 30, 2004;

WHEREAS, on February 6, 2001, Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo nominated Senator Guingona as Vice-President of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the nomination of Senator Guingona has been confirmed by a majority vote of all the members of both House of Congress, voting separately;

WHEREAS, Senator Guingona will take his Oath of Office as Vice-President of the Philippines on February 9, 2001;

WHEREAS, Republic Act No. 7166 provides that the election for twelve (12) Senators, all elective Members of the House of Representatives, and all elective provincial city and municipal officials shall be held on the second Monday and every three years thereafter; Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate, as it is hereby resolved, to certify, as it hereby certifies, the existence of a vacancy in the Senate and calling the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fill up such vacancy through election to be held simultaneously with the regular election on May 14, 2001 and the Senator thus elected to serve only for the unexpired term.

Adopted,

(Sgd.) FRANCISCO S. TATAD

Senator

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Mr. President, I move for the adoption of this resolution.

S[ENATOR] O[SMEÑA] (J). Mr. President.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Sen. John H. Osmeña is recognized.

S[ENATOR] O[SMEÑA] (J).  Thank you, Mr. President.  Will the distinguished Majority Leader, Chairman of the Committee on Rules, author of this resolution, yield for a few questions?

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  With trepidation, Mr. President. [Laughter]

S[ENATOR] O[SMEÑA] (J).  What a way of flattery. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I think I recall that sometime in 1951 or 1953, there was a special election for a vacant seat in the Senate.  As a matter of fact, the one who was elected in that special election was then Congressman, later Senator Feli[s]berto Verano.

In that election, Mr. President, the candidates contested the seat.  In other words, the electorate had to cast a vote for a ninth senator – because at that time there were only eight – to elect a member or rather, a candidate to that particular seat.

Then I remember, Mr. President, that when we ran after the EDSA revolution, twice there were 24 candidates and the first 12 were elected to a six-year term and the next 12 were elected to a three-year term.

My question therefore is, how is this going to be done in this election?  Is the candidate with the 13th largest number of votes going to be the one to take a three-year term?  Or is there going to be an election for a position of senator for the unexpired term of Sen. Teofisto Guingona?

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Mr. President, in this resolution, we are leaving the mechanics to the Commission on Elections.  But personally, I would like to suggest that probably, the candidate obtaining the 13thlargest number of votes be declared as elected to fill up the unexpired term of Senator Guingona.

S[ENATOR] O[SMEÑA] (J).  Is there a law that would allow the Comelec to conduct such an election?  Is it not the case that the vacancy is for a specific office?  I am really at a loss.  I am rising here because I think it is something that we should consider.  I do not know if we can… No, this is not a Concurrent Resolution.

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  May we solicit the legal wisdom of the Senate President.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  May I share this information that under Republic Act No. 6645, what is needed is a resolution of this Chamber calling attention to the need for the holding of a special election to fill up the vacancy created, in this particular case, by the appointment of our colleague, Senator Guingona, as Vice President.

It can be managed in the Commission on Elections so that a slot for the particular candidate to fill up would be that reserved for Mr. Guingona’s  unexpired term.  In other words, it can be arranged in such a manner.

x x x x

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  Mr. President.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Sen. Raul S. Roco is recognized.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  May we suggest, subject to a one-minute caucus, wordings to the effect that in the simultaneous elections, the 13th placer be therefore deemed to be the special election for this purpose.  So we just nominate 13 and it is good for our colleagues.  It is better for the candidates.  It is also less expensive because the ballot will be printed and there will be less disfranchisement.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  That is right.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  If we can just deem it therefore under this resolution to be such a special election, maybe, we satisfy the requirement of the law.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Yes. In other words, this shall be a guidance for the Comelec.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. Yes.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. – to implement.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  Yes. The Comelec will not have the flexibility.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  That is right.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  We will already consider the 13th placer of the forthcoming elections that will be held simultaneously as a special election under this law as we understand it.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Yes.  That will be a good compromise, Senator Roco.

S[ENATOR] R[OCO].  Yes.  So if the sponsor can introduce that later, maybe it will be better, Mr. President.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  What does the sponsor say?

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Mr. President, that is a most satisfactory proposal because I do not believe that there will be anyone running specifically –

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Correct.

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  – to fill up this position for three years and campaigning nationwide.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  Actually, I think what is going to happen is the 13th candidate will be running with specific groups.

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Yes. Whoever gets No. 13.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  I think we can specifically define that as the intent of this resolution.

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD].  Subject to style, we accept that amendment and if there will be no other amendment, I move for the adoption of this resolution.

x x x x

ADOPTION OF S. RES. NO. 934

If there are no other proposed amendments, I move that we adopt this resolution.

T[HE] P[RESIDENT].  There is a motion to adopt this resolution.  Is there any objection? [Silence] There being  none, the motion is approved.[37]

Evidently, COMELEC, in the exercise of its discretion to use means and methods to conduct the special election within the confines of R.A.  No. 6645, merely chose to adopt the Senate’s proposal, as embodied in Resolution No. 84.  This Court has consistently acknowledged and affirmed COMELEC’s wide latitude of discretion in adopting means to carry out its mandate of ensuring free, orderly, and honest elections subject only to the limitation that the means so adopted are not illegal or do not constitute grave abuse of discretion.[38]COMELEC’s decision to abandon the means it employed in the 13 November 1951 and 8 November 1955 special elections and adopt the method embodied in Resolution No. 84 is but a legitimate exercise of its discretion. Conversely, this Court will not interfere should COMELEC, in subsequent special senatorial elections, choose to revert to the means it followed in the 13 November 1951 and 8 November 1955 elections. That COMELEC adopts means that are novel or even disagreeable is no reason to adjudge it liable for grave abuse of discretion. As we have earlier noted:

The Commission on Elections is a constitutional body.  It is intended to play a distinct and important part in our scheme of government.  In the discharge of its functions, it should not be hampered with restrictions that would be fully warranted in the case of a less responsible organization.  The Commission may err, so may this Court also.  It should be allowed considerable latitude in devising means and methods that will insure the accomplishment of the great objective for which it was created — free, orderly and honest elections.  We may not agree fully with its choice of means, but unless these are clearly illegal or constitute gross abuse of discretion, this court should not interfere.[39]

A Word to COMELEC

The calling of a special election, if necessary, and the giving of notice to the electorate of necessary information regarding a special election, are central to an informed exercise of the right of suffrage. While the circumstances attendant to the present case have led us to conclude that  COMELEC’s failure to so call and give notice did not invalidate the special senatorial election held on 14 May 2001,  COMELEC should not take chances in future elections.  We remind COMELEC to comply strictly with all the requirements under applicable laws relative to the conduct of regular elections in general and special elections in particular.

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

 

Read case digest here.

 

 

Panganiban, Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Davide, Jr., C.J., joins Mr. Justice Puno in his dissent.

Puno, J., please see dissenting opinion.

Vitug, J., joins the dissent.

Ynares-Santiago, J., joins J. Puno’s dissent.

Tinga, J., joins Justice Puno’s dissent.

 


[1] As provided under Section 2 of Republic Act. No. 7166, as amended.

[2] Resolution No. 84 reads:

WHEREAS, the Honorable Teofisto Guingona, Jr. was elected Senator of the Philippines in 1998 for a term which will expire on June 30, 2004;

WHEREAS, on February 6, 2001, Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated Senator Guingona as Vice-President of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the nomination of Senator Guingona has been conferred by a majority vote of all the members of both Houses of Congress, voting separately;

WHEREAS, Senator Guingona will take his Oath of Office as Vice-President of the Philippines on February 9, 2001;

WHEREAS, Republic Act No. 7166 provides that the election for twelve (12) Senators, all elective Members of the House of Representatives, and all elective provincial, city and municipal  officials shall be held on the second Monday of May and every three years thereafter. Now, therefore be it Resolved by the Senate, as it is hereby resolved to certify as it hereby certifies, the existence of a vacancy in the Senate andcalling the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fill up said vacancy through election to be held simultaneously with the regular election on May 14, 2001 and the senatorial candidate garnering the thirteenth (13th) highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. (Emphasis supplied)

[3] Resolution No. 01-005 reads:

WHEREAS, the Commission on Elections, sitting [E][B]anc as the National Board of Canvassers for the election of Senators of the Philippines, officially canvassed in open and public proceedings the certificates of canvass of votes cast nationwide for senators in the national and local elections conducted on May 14, 2001.

Based on the canvass of the Certificates of Canvass submitted by seventy-eight (78) out of seventy-nine (79) Provincial Boards of Canvassers, twenty (20) City Boards of Canvassers of cities comprising one (1) or more legislative districts, two (2) District Boards of Canvassers of Metro Manila, and one (1) Absentee Voting, and the remaining uncanvassed certificate of canvass which will not anymore affect the results, the Commission on Elections sitting En Banc as the National Board of Canvassers finds that the following candidates for senators in said elections obtained as of June 04, 2001 the following number of votes as indicated opposite their names:

Name       Votes Garnered

(as of 4 June 2001)

NOLI DE CASTRO           16,157,811
JUAN M. FLAVIER           11,676,129
SERGIO R. OSMEÑA, III           11,531,427
FRANKLIN M. DRILON           11,223,020
RAMON B. MAGSAYSAY, JR.           11,187,447
JOKER P. ARROYO           11,163,801
MANUEL B. VILLAR, JR.           11,084,884
FRANCIS N. PANGILINAN           10,877,989
EDGARDO J. ANGARA           10,746,843
PANFILO M. LACSON           10,481,755
LUISA P. EJERCITO ESTRADA           10,456,674
RALPH G. RECTO           10,387,108
GREGORIO G. HONASAN           10,364,272

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the powers vested in it under the Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and other election laws, the Commission on Elections sitting En Banc as the National Board of Canvassers hereby PROCLAIMS the above-named thirteen (13) candidates as the duly elected Senators of the Philippines in the May 14, 2001 elections.  Based on the certificates of canvass finally tabulated, the first twelve (12) Senators shall serve for a term of six (6) years and the thirteenth (13th) Senator shall serve the unexpired term of three (3) years of Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. who was appointed Vice-President of the Philippines pursuant to Section 9, Article VII of the Constitution, in relation to Section 9, Article VI thereof, as implemented under Republic Act No. 6645. (Emphasis supplied)

[4] This provision states: “The Commission on Elections shall fix the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than forty-five (45) days nor later than ninety (90) days from the date of such resolution or communication, stating among other things the office or offices to be voted for: Providedhowever, That if within the said period a general election is scheduled to be held, the special election shall be held simultaneously with such general election.”

[5] This provision reads: “Certificate of candidacy. – No person shall be eligible for any elective public office unless he files a sworn certificate of candidacy within the period fixed herein.

A person who has filed a certificate of candidacy may, prior to the election, withdraw the same by submitting to the office concerned a written declaration under oath.

No person shall be eligible for more than one office to be filled in the same election, and if he files his certificate of candidacy for more than one office, he shall not be eligible for any of them.  However, before the expiration of the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy, the person who has filed more than one certificate of candidacy may declare under oath the office for which he desires to be eligible and cancel the certificate of candidacy for the other office or offices.

The filing or withdrawal of a certificate of candidacy shall not affect whatever civil, criminal or administrative liabilities which a candidate may have incurred.”

[6] This provision reads: “Certificates of Candidacy; Certified List of Candidates.  –   x x x  The  names of all registered candidates immediately followed by the nickname or stage name shall also be printed in the election returns and tally sheets.”

[7] Rollo, pp. 5-7, 12-14.

[8] Senator Roseller T. Lim was elected in the special election of 13 November 1951 while Senator Felisberto Verano was elected in the special election of 8 November 1955.

[9] Rollo, pp. 8-12.

[10] Castro v. Del Rosario, 25 Phil. 611 (1967); Section 1(a), Rule 66, THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.

[11]  Sections 1-2, Rule 65, THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.

[12] Gil v. Benipayo, G.R. No. 148179, 26 June 2001 (minute resolution).

[13] Acop v. Guingona, G.R. No. 134856, 2 July 2002, 383 SCRA 577; Viola v. Hon. Alunan III, 343 Phil. 184 (1997); Alunan III v. Mirasol, 342  Phil. 467 (1997).

[14] 342 Phil. 467 (1997).

[15] Joya v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, G.R. No. 96541, 24 August 1993, 225  SCRA 568.

[16] Kilosbayan, Incorporated v. Morato, 316 Phil. 652 (1995).

[17] CONST., art. VIII, secs. 1 and 5(2).

[18] Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, 352 Phil. 153 (1998).

[19] See Warth v. Seldin, 442 U.S. 490, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975).

[20] Dumlao v. COMELEC, G.R. No. L-52245, 22 January 1980, 95 SCRA 392 (internal citations omitted).

[21] De Guia v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 104712, 6 May 1992, 208 SCRA 420; Gonzales v. COMELEC, 129 Phil. 7 (1967).  See also Telecom & Broadcast Attys. of the Phils., Inc. v. COMELEC, 352 Phil. 153 (1998).

[22] G.R. No. 141284, 15 August 2000, 338 SCRA 81.

[23] Integrated Bar of the Philippines vs. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, 15 August 2000, 338 SCRA 81.

[24] E.g. Resolution No. 3258,  dated  28 September 2000 (providing for the calendar of activities and periods of prohibited acts in connection with the 14 May 2001 elections as amended by Resolution Nos. 3322, dated 5 October 2000; 3284, dated 20 October 2000; 3306, dated 7 November 2000; 3426, dated 22 December 2000; and 3359, dated 6 February 2001); Resolution No. 3632, dated 1 March 2001 (canceling the certificates of candidacy of nuisance senatorial candidates); and Resolution No. 3743, dated 12 March 2001 (providing for the general instructions to the Boards of Election Inspectors on the casting and counting of votes).

[25] E.g. undated COMELEC pamphlet entitled “Frequently Asked Questions on the May 14, 2001 Elections.”

[26] 26 AM. JUR. 2d Elections § 281 (1996); 29 C.J.S. Elections § 70 (1965).

[27] Ibid; ibid.

[28] 26 AM. JUR. 2d Elections § 282 (1996).

[29] Ibid.

[30] McCoy v. Fisher, 67 S.E. 2d 543 (1951).

[31] 26 AM. JUR. 2d Elections § 281 (1996); 29 C.J.S. Elections § 70 (1965).

[32] See 26 AM. JUR. 2d Elections § 292 (1996); 29 C.J.S.  Elections § 72 (1965).

[33] Indeed, the fact that 13 senators were due to  be  elected  in  the  14 May  2001  elections  and that the senator elected to the 13th place will serve the remaining term of Senator Guingona was published in news reports (see Philippine Star, 9 February 2001, pp. 1, 6 and Daily Tribune,  9 February 2001, pp. 1, 8; Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 February 2001, pp. 1, 10; 14 February 2001, pp. 1, A20; Today, 8 February 2001, p. 10; Manila Bulletin, 9 February 2001, pp. 3, 8).  Furthermore, the fact that the administration and opposition coalitions each fielded 13 senatorial candidates (and not only 12) was similarly given extensive coverage by news publications (see Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12  February 2001, pp. 1, 10; 13 February 2001, pp. 1, A14; 14 February 2001, pp. 1, A20; Philippine Star, 13 February 2001, pp. 1, 4; 14 February 2001, pp. 1, 6; Today, 9 February 2001, pp. 1, 4; 12 February 2001, pp. 1, 10; 13 February 2001, pp. 1, 10; Manila Standard, 13 February 2001, pp. 1, 2; Malaya, 13 February 2001, pp. 1, 6; 14 February 2001, pp. 1, 4; Daily Tribune 14  February 2001, pp. 1, 6; Manila Times, 14 February 2001, pp. 1, 2A; Philippine Star Ngayon, 13 February 2001, pp. 1, 4).

[34] Florendo, Sr.  vs. Buyser,  129 Phil. 353 (1967);  Capalla v. Tabiana, 63 Phil. 95  (1936);  Kiamzon  v. Pugeda, 54 Phil. 755 (1930); Cailles v. Gomez, 42 Phil. 852 (1924). Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, as amended, (Omnibus Election Code), on failure of elections (resulting to the annulment of elections), provides: “SEC. 6. Failure of election. — If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes the election in any polling place had not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting, or after the voting and during the preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect, and in any of such cases the failure or suspension of election would affect the result of the election, the Commission shall, on the basis of a verified petition by an interested party and after due notice and hearing, call for the holding or continuation of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect”.

[35] Alcala v. Commission on Elections,  218 Phil. 322 (1984);  Villareal v. Fornier,  84 Phil. 756 (1949); Lucero v. De Guzman, 45 Phil. 852 (1924).

[36] Lino Luna vs. Rodriguez, 39 Phil. 208 (1918).

[37] Transcript of Session Proceedings of the Philippine Senate, 8 February 2001, pp. 49-54. (Emphasis supplied)

[38] E.g. Cauton v. COMELEC, 126 Phil. 291 (1967).

[39] Puñgutan v. Abubakar, 150 Phil. 1 (1972) citing Sumulong v. Commission on Elections, 73 Phil. 237 (1941).

 

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6 11 2011
Tolentino vs COMELEC |

[...] Read full text here. nuffnang_bid = "ae5b4752a881366abcb1ed17b359ab76"; document.write('' ); Related PostsRamon Gonzales vs COMELECMabanag vs Lopez VitoMiriam Defensor Santiago et al vs COMELEC Tagged with: Amendment to the Constitution • case brief • case digest • constitutional law • G.R. No. 148334 • Jurisprudence • political law • Tolentino vs COMELEC  Share this digest to your classmates! [...]

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